Celebrated Photographer David Goldblatt Dies, Aged 87
The South African photographer David Goldblatt has died aged 87. The Randfontein-born artist, who began photographing in 1948, was one of South Africa’s leading documentarians of the apartheid era, capturing in stark detail life on both sides of the racial divide.
‘During those [early] years my prime concern was with values, what did we value in South Africa, how did we get to those values and how did we express those values,’ said Goldblatt. Earlier this year, he was the subject of a survey at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which included more than 200 photographs, unpublished documents from his archive and recent works.
“David Goldblatt was one of the major figures of contemporary photography, [he epitomised] the ethical and moral conscience of the role of the artist in society today,” says Bernard Blistène, the director of the National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Pompidou. Liza Essers, the director of Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, says: “A legend, a teacher, a national icon, and a man of absolute integrity has passed. Goodman Gallery will continue to represent David’s legacy and estate and will do so with the honour, respect and responsibility that this privilege deserves.”
In 1989, Goldblatt founded the Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg. In 1998, he was the first South African artist to be given a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Last year, Goldblatt installed photographs of former criminals in prisons in Birmingham and Manchester, UK. The portraits, part of a series called Ex-Offenders, show men and women at the scene of their crimes, with accompanying texts that relate the subjects’ stories in their own words.
Following uprisings at the University of Cape Town in 2015, he withdrew his archive and the collection of works he had promised as a bequest to the university. In a controversial move, he subsequently transferred his entire archive of negatives to Yale University in the US. Crucially, a digital archive of Goldblatt’s work will be created in South Africa and made available to the public for free through an initiative named the Photographic Legacy Project.
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